Half of Americans work while on vacation, and feel guilty for taking one

FILE - A woman works at the computer on a balcony overlooking the wilderness. Getty Images

For all the talk of work-life balance and taking the time to unplug from the job, most Americans cannot completely step away from the grind – even when they take time off to do just that.

In a new survey by communications firm Movchan Agency, 54% of the 2,000 U.S. adults polled said they work while on vacation, and roughly half said they feel guilty on vacation whether they were working or not.

Nadya Movchan, founder and CEO of Movchan Agency, said these statistics are actually lower than those published in previous years, which showed that two-thirds of Americans worked during their vacations.

"While ‘workcations’ have become the norm over the last decade, we’ve actually seen a decline in the number of people who are working during their downtime," Movchan told FOX Business. "Does that suggest employers have seen the error of their ways and colleagues are finally respecting the ‘out of office’ reply? Fat chance."


Eighty-six percent of respondents said they receive calls and messages from colleagues while on vacation, 63% said they feel anxious if they don’t check their work-related messages while on vacation, and 59% of people struggle to switch off from work while on vacation.

According to the findings, 70% of people have experienced mental health issues due to overworking, with 43% suffering from anxiety and 1 in 8 turning to harmful substances.

Meanwhile, 34% of people choose to work while on vacation because they love their job, while 29% do so out of fear of losing it.


"The prevalence of ‘workcations’ may have fallen, but compare that to rates of burnout, stress, fatigue, and the stack of physical health problems impacting the workforce," Movchan said. "It’s far more likely that vacationing workers are suffering from exhaustion or too busy working another part-time job to pay the bills, rather than having fun and topping up their tan."

When presented with the survey's findings, Roger Hall – a business psychologist who has worked with entrepreneurs, Fortune 20 companies, and professionals like lawyers, financial planners and sales people to help many of them navigate stressful work environments – pointed to the changes in the nature of work over the years.

"The drive home from work used to be a logical dividing line between the stress of work and the peace of home. In those 15 to 30 minutes, workers would listen to the radio and decompress from work," Hall told FOX Business. 

But with the advent of modern technology, that dividing line has been completely eliminated, he explained. Now, workers squeeze in a couple more work-related phone calls while on their way home. In fact, instead of going to the office, they may be working from the spare bedroom, so the "commute" is only 15 seconds.

"Twenty minutes of checking emails turns into three hours of building a spreadsheet to meet a customer order by first thing in the morning. There is no time for the brain to rest," Hall said. "The human brain needs time for rest and quiet in order to repair itself. Those repairs require time, quiet and sleep. Our digital age reduces all of those things. As a result, while we are thinking more, we are not thinking more clearly."

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